Saturday, April 24, 2010

I have no photographs of Oscar, and the memories are as good as.

His name was “Oscar”. I first met him some years ago, he was standing alone, in a rather dirty and shambolic space, that was supposed to be a stable. Four walls and a floor would be an exaggeration! It was raining on that day, and overcast, and to be honest, I just didn’t see him as the horse for me.

I watched him as he stood in the rain, mud up to his hocks, his back was lean and he was soaking wet. Even his mane, which I suspected had been quite magnificent, was wispy and lack lustre.

He belonged to a riding school, yes! Seriously! Admittedly it had closed, and Oscar was the last horse for sale. I could see why he hadn’t been bought, his size! Oscars feet were like dinner plates!

The owner was present as I examined this forlorn equine, even when I touched him, and lifted his feet, he didn’t show any interest, not even a twitch. Asking the price, I was greeted by the usual chin rubbing, and the casual remark of, ”Well he`s a good horse and I`m loathe to part with him, but?”
I cut straight to the chase, I was angry, not just at the state the horse was in, but the general attitude of this idiot, who was supposed to be looking after him.
I threatened the owner with the RSPCA, (Royal Society for the Protection of Animals) and the local Police, and then started to walk away.

Needless to say, against my better judgement, I ended up with a horse.

I had Oscar transported home, I had to get a truck, my trailer wasn’t tall enough! Once home, I had our local vet check him over, apparently he wasn’t too bad, a few injections and a wormer, and that was it. Or so I thought!

Oscar spent the first night at our place, in the stables. On his first morning, I had the farrier come and sort his feet, we didn’t shoe him straight away, as he needed some “Dr Green”, and a healthy diet.

During the farriers visit, I began to notice just how difficult the job I had taken on, just might be. I could clearly see his ribcage, the lack of flesh worried me, although, when I first saw him, he looked just the same. He had hip bones protruding, and his wither was like a knife blade!

Once the farrier had left, I began to introduce him to the other members of our small herd, but Oscar didn’t show the slightest interest, not a glimmer of interest, his eyes were dull and although the vet gave him a fairly clean bill of health, I had my doubts.

Still there was nothing for it, but to let him eat grass with the others. He was turned out, and his halter removed, and as I walked away, I looked back, and watched as Oscar just lowered his head, checked the grass and pecked away at it without any movement at all.

This went on for three days! He never moved from this one corner of the field, just stood where he was left, and pecked away. I was by now getting very concerned, on the fourth day, I went out to the field to see if there was any change.
When I got there, Oscar had gone! Not a sign! Immediate worry set in, where on earth was he?

I started to call for the other horses, if he was still in the field, he would be with them. Down the hill all the other horses came, at full tilt! But no Oscar! So with my heart in mouth, I started to walk across the field, I couldn’t see hide nor hair of him.
As I reached the top of the small hill, I became aware of a very loud thumping sound! It sounded like a whole herd of horses!

It was a very heavy and large horse galloping! Then I saw him! The bag of bones that I had thought was a waste of time, and the horse that had stood depressed, in the corner of the field, was now galloping like a yearling across the field! Bucking and cat jumping for all he was worth! If I hadn’t have seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it!

I watched for a good ten minutes as this huge beast flew round the field, great clods of earth, from his hooves being thrown up into the air!!!!

I didnt quite know what to say or do, but I just stood like an idiot and began to laugh out loud! It was a truly wonderful thing to see. When he finally stopped cavorting, and stood still, his head was no longer bowed, it was held high! His whole demeanour had changed, from a cowed and depressed horse, to a new and majestic horse, and behind the lean body I could begin to see the potential he had.

The rest of that day, was spent trying to fathom out what had happened, I could only assume that he, Oscar, had been kept in a stable forever! That he had never seen grass, and that the depression was as a result of all this, and then being taken out now and again to give some unsuspecting human a ride!

But that was in the past now. Here now was the beginning of his new life. So it was that Oscar became more of a horse, he looked better, he had had a bath, a thorough grooming, and he had been shod! He seemed to love every minute of it!

The Tooth man came, floated his teeth and checked his mouth for any faults, there were none, but one. “He has got a hard mouth, watch when you ride him, he might take some stopping!” I smiled, and forgot those words. (bad move!)

Several days later, we ventured to a local tack auction, as we were unable to find a saddle to fit him, within our friends and their horses, everybody that came to see him was truly surprised at just how big Oscar was. To give you some idea, he had now filled out, and apart from his original 17 hands, he was now a full 17.2 hands tall! He stood better and had toned up. But to anyone looking at him, he was enormous, fleshed out and looking more like a draught horse every day.
We finally bought an 18 inch, extra wide draught horse saddle! It was more like a sofa than a saddle!
But it fitted him perfectly. The day came to ride him for the first time, nearly a full seven months after he arrived. I fitted his saddle, bridle and bit, a snaffle? Once aboard, we walked off towards the fields. His manners were to say the least, bloody good. Never a wrong foot, so after the walk, a trot, marvellous! No issues, then a canter.

I chose for this event, wisely as it turned out, a quarter mile loaning, and after stopping, and checking everything I kissed him on, there was no response. I then applied a little leg pressure, nothing. I was still finding out what his aids were, when I, for some inexplicable reason, pressed my leg in to his ribs and then kissed him. WHOA!!!!! Off he went, like a bloody train! Full gallop down this lane! The wind rushed through my hair, my eyes watered and Oscar was not for stopping! The quarter mile lane, didn’t seem that long ten seconds later, as I saw the end getting ever closer. I began to apply the brakes, if I said there was nothing! There wasn’t any thing there at all! I finally threw the reins at his neck all the while holding on fiercely, nothing!
The end of the lane was upon me! I resorted to brute strength, and failed miserably! Again I tried, then! The right rein snapped! Oh my God!!

A horse at full tilt, a sharp left hand bend coming up, and I knew then there would be a dead end! My sphincter muscle, was doing overtime! By this time God was high on my list of people to pray to!

I thought of bailing off, but the fear of hitting trees was too great, I was doomed! But I made a mental note, that I would listen to advice in future, if there was one!
The dead end was approaching, in more ways than one, when I espied an open gate on the left of a group of trees, it was wide open but entailed a very sharp turn. Reaching forward, I clutched hold of the left side of Oscars bridle, and heaved! It worked! I was through the gate and into the open, I had a chance!

Oscar was already sweating profusely, as was I! The field we entered was freshly ploughed, which in hindsight, was brilliant! He began to slow, finally after several large and dodgy circles to the left, we stopped!

It was sometime later as we were still gasping for breath, that I slid off Oscar, and began to check him over. He was fine. I examined the right rein to find it snapped clean. I had been extremely lucky.

I retraced our steps to the stables. I had retied the rein to the bit. But remained at the walk.

The following day, I was minded to ride Oscar again, but using a stronger bit. But I refrained, as I was determined to try another way. It seemed that this other way, might be the answer.

I bought a “side pull”, in effect a training piece. A bridle, but with two strands of hard rope across the nose. It was in effect a bit-less bridle.

For the next few months we worked away in an arena, hours of re schooling this wonderful animal. Finally, we were ready.

The day dawned, and I tacked him up, but this time I did away with the bit-less, and installed a mild curb, it had a low port, and swivel cheeks.
The difference in Oscar up to now had been excellent, we set off and I could feel the softness in his back, the ears were up and one swivelled to me. We got to the fateful loaning, and I settled myself for a fast ride.

I applied the leg, and kissed him on, to my surprise and pleasure, his response was to step off straight into a lovely canter! A straight and fluid canter, it was like sitting in a boat, gently rocking along. I was flabbergasted, all that work!

The end of the lane was in site and with care, I lifted the reins, he quietly came back to a walk? Oh Yes!

The rest of the ride was a slow walk home, and after getting there? Oscar was let to graze in the field. The following years with Oscar were fabulous.


I cannot in all conscience forgive myself for selling this fine animal, but I did. I did it for, at the time the right reasons, but after doing so, I bitterly regretted it.

It came about after a family crisis, and was several years after I had bought Oscar, and what with one thing and another, I had to sell the horses. He was the only one I didn’t want to sell, but I finally had to let go.
The chap who bought Oscar, had stated to me that he was wanted to ride, and would have a five star home. How wrong I was. The day he went, I was in half a mind to cancel the whole idea, but I didn’t.

Years later, I have tried to trace Oscar, he would be about nineteen years old now, but I finally went through the Horse Passport Agency.

Oscar had been sold finally to a knacker-man. I was devastated! I rescued him, and I had sentenced him to this. I should be ashamed, and I am.

However, since then, I find that something positive has come about, I decided that no matter what, the horses I have now, and I have four, would never suffer the same fate as Oscar. It was my duty to them, for trusting me, to give them the best life possible, and to keep them after their lives as ridden horses were over. To this day, this is what I have done, and will continue to do so. I also do get the odd rescue horse, not wanted, and they come to me. Where they stay, until I can find suitable, and reliable homes for them. If I cant, they stay!

Thanks for reading this.


  1. Great story, but sad. You might not have any photos but you painted a great picture of Oscar for me. Had to look up what a knacker-man was, seems like it is a UK only term. Wished I had not looked it up. Sounds like you do a lot of nice work with horses no one else wants--bravo

  2. Thanks for the comment. Its become a kind of release for me. Welcome to the blog!

  3. OMG...What a wonderful story, but the end made me cry....I do not know what a Knacker-man is but it didn't sound good at I cried for gave him such a wonderful life and to have it end with a sad.


  4. Hi Hawk, a knacker-man is what you might suspect it to be, its a person who slaughters cows pigs horses et al. An old term for the job.
    Yes it was very sad, even now it has a very bitter taste for me.

  5. A heart-warming tale. Sad, but beautiful in its own way. Thanks, Cheyenne.